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Pak PM to visit Ajmer today; shrine head to boycott him
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 8
Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s visit to India tomorrow to offer prayers at the famous Sufi shrine at Ajmer has generated yet another controversy.

First, it was the Indian Government which made it clear that it would not hold any substantive talks with the Pakistan Premier, now the Ajmer Sharif spiritual head has said that he would boycott the visit in protest against the recent killing and beheading of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army.

“If I receive and welcome the Pakistan Prime Minister, it would be an insult to Indian soldiers, especially the martyrs,” he said in a statement sent to media organisations.

Zainul Abedin Ali Khan said it would have been better if Ashraf had brought along with him the head of the Indian soldier (Lance Naik Hemraj) and personally apologised to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the families of the Indian soldiers for the ‘inhuman act’.

Traditionally, when the Head of a State or Government visits the ‘Dargah’, he is welcomed by the spiritual head - the descendent of the sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti.

As of now, Ashraf, accompanied by members of his extended family, will arrive here around 11 am and leave for Hotel Rambagh Palace for a lunch being hosted by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in his honour. Shortly after lunch, he will leave for Ajmer to offer prayers. He will return to Jaipur in the evening and emplane for Islamabad.

However, speculation is on about what Ashraf and Khurshid will discuss over lunch, with New Delhi ruling out any substantive talks between the two leaders. India’s contention is that Islamabad has done precious little to address its concern over terrorism and to bring to book those responsible for the killing and beheading of Indian soldiers.

In any case, Ashraf is expected to resign soon to facilitate the formation of a caretaker government ahead of the elections in Pakistan.

Official sources acknowledged that the dialogue process with Pakistan had also been affected by the beheading incident in January along the Line of Control (LoC). On top of it, there is no immediate possibility of putting the dialogue process back on the track in the near future, the reason being that Pakistan will go to the polls in May and India will be in the election mode later this year.

New Delhi is also peeved that Pakistan has not fulfilled its commitment to grant the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India by the end of 2012, taking shelter under lame excuses.

It is learnt that the Pakistani Premier desired to pray at the Sufi shrine for the success of his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the elections. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the PPP, had undertaken a similar pilgrimage to India in April last year. He also made a donation of $1million to the shrine. Zardari also held a luncheon meeting with PM Manmohan Singh that helped give impetus to the dialogue process. Meanwhile, a Pakistani security team arrived in Ajmer to review the security arrangements for Ashraf’s visit. Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the high-profile visit. The shrine will be vacated minutes before the arrival of the Pakistan PM. The administration has ordered closure of the shops situated in the area.





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